Mar 22, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Bessie's Pillow

I love history and I love reading, so it was fun to get a chance to review Bessie's Pillow by Strong Learning, Inc


Bessie's Pillow

Bessie's Pillow is an historical fiction book about an immigrant in the early 1900s. The book begins in Lithuania, recently taken over by the Russian Empire and we meet a young Jewish girl, Boshka, who is about to embark on adventure. Because she is Jewish, she and her family are suffering persecution as most Jews were in that time period. Her parents choose to send her to America to keep her safe. This book is the story of her journey, and her life in America.

I found this book to be a quick read. Not quick as in easy and simple but quick as in I read it in one sitting because I simply could not put it down. Once I started reading I was quickly immersed in the story and just had to keep reading to find out what happened next!

The story is told from the first person point of view of Boshka, whose name is Americanized by a port official to Elizabeth and quickly shortened to Bessie. It is also told in present tense, which always takes some getting used to for me, but it really worked in this instance, because with the words chosen, the sentence structure and the tense, the entire book felt like Bessie herself was sitting there telling me the story. 

The tale follows Bessie from Lithuania, where a woman gives her a pillow to take "to my son in New York!" and travels with her across the ocean and then details her life in America for the next thirty years, including her love story. As we read, we gain a very clear picture of Bessie's strength of character and rugged independence that help her overcome her difficulties and struggles and achieve her own American dream. We are also given a good view of what immigration and life in America was like. It was not an easy life, but Bessie, instead of complaining, was quite grateful for whatever she had. She was also extremely willing to use her blessings to help others.

And the really compelling part of this book? It is based on a true story. A few minor details and names of supporting characters were changed, but Bessie's Pillow is the life story of the author's grandmother. Bessie told the story to her daughter, who told it to the author, Linda Bress Silbert.  The book includes photographs of the characters in the story and at the end of the book, there are short paragraphs telling "what happened after" to the main characters in the book, including the pillow! 

With the book comes an online study guide: Bessie's America. This site contains a wealth of information about American immigration. There are photographs, recipes, information about the illnesses mentioned in the book, movies from the time period, music, a link to radio shows that Bessie probably listened to, tons of fascinating information about the transatlantic steamships and so much more. There is even a Teacher's Guide to help you put all of it together in a coherent fashion for your kids. 

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After I read Bessie's Pillow, I handed it over to my fourteen year old daughter and she read it to. Here is what she had to say.

Kaytie: It was very engaging. I liked the storyline and the basic concept. I liked how the pillow brought it all together. I thought it was well written. I would recommend this book for older kids, probably eight and up.

I highly recommend  Bessie's Pillow to anyone who is interested in a real life look at American immigration. It was a fascinating book.

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}



Crew Disclaimer

Mar 21, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Creating a Masterpiece

My three artistic kids have been reviewing Creating a Masterpiece. We were given free access to their Monthly Plan.

Creating a Masterpiece

Creating a Masterpiece is an online art program for kids. It was designed by Sharon Hofer in an attempt to extend her art studio. She wanted to teach kids technique while enabling them to create beautiful works of art right off the bat.

Creating a Masterpiece consists of video instruction with step-by-step directions for the kids to follow. The program is results based, meaning everyone's finished project will look basically the same with minor differences. 

The lessons are divided into six skill levels, starting with Beginner. The lessons get more challenging as you go from Beginner to Level Five. However, kids can choose from any level. The levels are not locked, so they do not have to go in any particular order. 

Your student can also choose their lesson based on medium. And there are a lot to choose from:

  • acrylic
  • batik
  • block printing
  • carving
  • conte' crayon
  • copper tooling
  • glass mosaic
  • gouache
  • ink
  • mixed media
  • oil painting
  • oil pastel
  • pencil/charcoal
  • sculpture
  • silk painting
  • soft pastel
  • watercolor
  • wood burning

The videos are of various length and some of the lessons were divided into different videos. It is suggested that the lessons should be done about one a week. Sometimes the kids got to a particular spot and then were told to wait until their paint dried and then come back and finish the project.

Each lesson has it's own supply list that you see first thing when you open the lesson. Or there is a main supply list, kind of like an overview, that you can browse through and pick your projects by the supplies they require.

Inside the lessons are also tips, suggestions, highlights and even some images you can print out for the kids to look at if wanted/needed.

Oh, and you can also print your supply lists for the lessons you are interested in. Just in case you need something to take with you to the store.

I have three kids that are quite interested in art. They have all taken classes, worked on other art programs and worked on their own for many years. So this was an easy review for us to do. I simply showed them the log-in information and told them to get to work.

At first, we had an issue because they worked at various paces and the faster ones were irritated when the slower ones needed to pause or re-watch parts of the video. And the slower ones were irritated that they could not keep up. I quickly solved that issue by making them all work on their own laptop or tablet. 

My most adept artist was also annoyed that some of the "lessons" were actually a video telling her what supplies she needed. But she settled down once she actually got started working. 

Once we got all that worked out, they had a blast. Daniel and Abbie got their first real experience working with pastels. They were pleased that even their initial results were "hang up on the wall" worthy. 

 

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Kaytie, of course, enjoyed working with sketching and watercolors, one of her favorite mediums.

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This is what they had to say about Creating a Masterpiece:

Kaytie: I got lost a couple of times in the lessons. I finished all the parts of the lesson and the picture wasn't done and I had to find the rest of the lesson somewhere else. Actually, my brother found it for me! 
I liked the way she explained the process and gave a lot of detail. 
I was impressed at how well my art looked when it was done. 
I liked how many different types of media were offered and how the projects were sort of adaptable and flexible. 

Daniel: It was fun because I got to figure out how to use different art styles and different equipment for different needs. I liked how it was easy to make something awesome from just a few materials. 

Abbie: It was fun because it is art! I loved what I could draw. The videos went too fast for me but I paused it until I could keep up. It's important to use the right supplies or your picture won't turn out right. 



We thoroughly enjoyed Creating a Masterpiece, but you don't have to just take our word for it. You can try a free project or click on the banner below to read what other Crew members thought!

Creating Beautiful Art at Home {Creating A Masterpiece Reviews}


Crew Disclaimer

Mar 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Our traditional picture. We also celebrated with green foods, grilling burgers for supper, cookies, an afternoon exploring the arboretum, and of course, leaving milk out for the leprechaun in exchange for candy. This exchange is a purely Hoggard tradition that I don't even know how exactly came to be. It just seems like something we have always done and we continue to do every year because... candy. This leprechaun gives different candy every year. This year he left Sprouts gummy bears and leftover Christmas chocolate. He is random like that.

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Mar 15, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew:

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We were asked to review two books from Kregel Publications. Written by Susan K. Marlow, we received two chapter books from the Andi series. We were given Andi Saddles Up and Andi Under the Big Top.


Andi Saddles Up



Andi Under the Big Top

These books are the first and second books in the new Andi series: Circle C Stepping Stones. Andi Carter is now nine years old and these stories are intended to appeal to older readers than the ones when she was six. There are also a couple of series where Andi is even older. 

The Andi Carter books are set in California in the 1870s and 1880s. The Carter family owns a ranch which gives Andi access to horses and a wealthy lifestyle that would be uncommon in that time and place. The Carter children, (there are five of them) also enjoy a freedom that comes from their father being deceased and their mother being a relaxed parent. The older children make most of the decisions regarding Andi and her behavior. Thus, Andi enjoys many adventures and escapades. These are the stories in the books.

Andi Saddles Up tells the story of friendship tested by outside forces. Andi's family are ranchers and her new friend's family are sheepherders. This classic dispute puts pressure on the girls friendship. We also get to experience fishing trips, a broken arm, and, most importantly, learn about the value of obedience!

Andi Under the Big Top explores the excitement of a circus coming to town in the 1800s. We get to see the thrill the townspeople felt at seeing the exotic animals, the amazing performers, and the bizarre sideshows. We also get to see the hard work and dark underbelly of the "behind the scenes" as we meet Henry, a little boy who works for the circus.

Along with the books are free study guides. They are PDFs that you can print, or, you can pay for printed and bound copies if you like. The study guides are over 20 pages long and are great go-alongs for the books. They ask comprehension questions in true/false, fill-in-the-blank, or multiple choice format. They also have math activities, puzzles, language art activities, crafts, recipes, art projects and extra information that involve both science and history. The study guides turn a fun book into an enjoyable school subject if you are so inclined. Or your child could just use the guides as a fun extra to prolong the enjoyment of the book.

My ten-year-old begged me to let her review these books. She had read a Circle C Beginnings book and was eager to read more about Andi Carter. When the paperback books arrived in the mail, Abbie disappeared into her room with them and read them both in a couple of afternoons. This is what she thought:

Abbie says: They were interesting. I like how her older brothers looked after her. I thought the stories were exciting. I loved that her friend had sheep because sheep are my favorite animals. My favorite part in Andi Saddles Up is when her brother and her friend's dad decide to get along instead of fighting over land. My favorite part in Andi Under the Big Top was when Justin gave Henry the money so he wouldn't get in trouble and then an extra dime for himself. 

I read them after she was done and found them to be sweet little books that teach wholesome principles about obedience, sacrifice, love, and doing the right thing, no matter what. Abbie is just beginning to blossom into a love for reading, so I am happy to have books I can hand her without concern and know she will enjoy the process and ask for more.

Andi Series {Kregel Publications and Susan K. Marlow Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Mar 14, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Home School Adventure Co.

Home School Adventure Co. sent us a partial, advance copy of their unit study: Walking with the Waodani.

Walking with the Waodani

I grew up hearing the story of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and the other missionaries whose death and the brave faithfulness of their families resulted in the salvation of a tribe of South American warriors. In fact, my oldest son, Nathaniel, is called Nate in honor of Nate Saint, the pilot of the group. But for those of you who don't know the story, here's the short version.

In the 1950s, five American men and their wives and children were serving as missionaries in Ecuador. They heard of a violent tribe called the Auca nearby and decided to attempt to take the Gospel to them. Unfortunately, after what seemed like progress befriending the tribe, the men were attacked and killed with spears. Several years later, Jim Elliot's wife Elisabeth and Nate Saint's sister, Rachel, tried again to befriend the Auca and, largely due to their display of forgiveness and love, succeeded. 

Nate Saint's son, Steve, grew up spending summers with his aunt living with the tribe they now called the Waodani. And now he and the man who killed his father, Mincaye, travel together to tell their story of forgiveness and redemption and the amazing love of God.

The unit study is based on this story, but also tells the story of Russell, a young man who was able to go visit the Waodani himself on a tour which the tribe offers in an attempt to support themselves and their elderly members independently. These tours are short-term jungle trips that allow others to experience the jungle hunter/gather lifestyle.

The study also tells of animals, foods, and a lifestyle unique to the Amazon River jungle. The black jaguar, how best to cook and eat the delicacy called the Palmetto Weevil Grub, a recipe for a delicious soup, the vampire bat and some Ecuadorian history and even stories about spear fishing. Oh, and yes, even a flying car! Not something you would naturally expect in a study about the jungle, but this unit study is full of surprises!

At the end of each lesson are activities for the kids to do. Some of those activities were filling out maps, drawing pictures of jungle animals, writing stories, and answering open-ended questions about what they had learned.

The study also includes lists of outside resources (internet links, books and videos) which you can use for additional learning. 

It is important to note that this study is still in the process of being created. We have received the first three lessons, which is all that has been completed at this time. If you want to be notified when the study is ready, click here and scroll down to sign up.

We went through Walking with the Waodani as a group. It comes in the form of a PDF, so you are free to print or to read it from any device. Instead of printing, I read aloud while the kids looked over my shoulder at all the fabulous pictures. At the end of each lesson, we clicked on links to further explore. We actually went through the first two lessons in one sitting, because we just couldn't stop. I intend, when we get the rest of it, to go back through a little more slowly, and do some activities like making the soup to try. 

I also want them to see the movie The End of the Spear. I have seen it, but when it first came out, my kids were way too little to watch it. Now, though, I think it would be great for them, especially after this unit study. 

Speaking of which, this is what they thought about the study:

Kaytie: I thought it was very interesting. It described things really well. It had a bunch of interesting information about cultures and customs. The flying car was cool. I liked learning about the food they ate.

Nate: That was interesting because it was very factual. I love facts. I think it was particularly interesting because it was about the guy I was named after. I liked learning about the grubs. That was cool. 

Daniel: I liked how they taught us about how they did things and what their culture was like. I liked learning about the animals and the problems they have with the animals and how they made stuff. I liked learning about the food. It was so cool they could make the car that does multiple things. It was great how much time and effort they put into making something that would benefit other people. 

Abbie: It was interesting. I learned about missionaries in Ecuador. I liked that Steve's Saint forgave the guy that killed his father instead of killing him in revenge. And I liked that he was baptized by the guys that killed his dad. But the grubs were gross!!!

In short, we highly recommend Walking with the Waodani as a great way to teach your kids self-sacrifice, love, forgiveness, the Gospel, and the culture of Ecuador.

Resources with a Biblical Worldview{Home School Adventure Co. Reviews}


Crew Disclaimer

Mar 9, 2017

Photos of the Week

We do school in the mornings so the kids have time in the afternoons to do "projects". This week, I am sharing some pictures of these projects. Not all of them, however, just some. Most notably, I do not have pictures of the volcano that Daniel showed Langston.

I do have pictures of the fort that the little kids made and used for reading.

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One of the many pictures that Kaytie drew.

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And a robot that Daniel created. Or one of the many forms of the robot. This robot fell over enough times that now both dogs are thoroughly terrified of cardboard boxes. Sigh

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